The aim of this week’s article is to show you the main verb and noun forms used for describing increases and decreases. This area of vocabulary is almost certainly going to be needed in one or both of the writing tasks in the exam.

The difference in describing increases and decreases:




1.  To increase
The core verb is of course ‘increase’. Other similar verbs include: climb – increase to a high level: “ Temperatures are expected to climb to record levels in the next few decades.”
escalate – to increase to a high level; used with things you do not want to increase or see increased: “Prices escalated in the last quarter.” gain – usually used to indicate an increase in speed, weight or height: “A new born baby will gain weight at around a few grams every day.”  
‘go up /rise’ – used with numbers, prices, temperatures etc. 
and also to show an increase in the level or standard of something: “Living standards rose over the first ten years”.
grow  (grew – grown) – to increase gradually over a period of time: “China’s economic output continues to grow at a remarkable annual rate.” widen – used when you want to show how much the difference between two or more amounts increases or how much the range of things available increases: “The range of university courses has widened tremendously in the last few years.”
2. To increase by a specific amount

double – become twice as much or many: “Spending on clothes doubled in 2012.” triple / treble – become three times as much or many: “The number of old people living in poverty has trebled in the last ten years.” quadruple – become four times as much or many: “The number of accidents on this road quadrupled last winter.”  

3. To increase quickly or suddenly and by a large amount

go through the roof – to increase to an extremely high level: “Ice-cream sales have gone through the roof this summer.” rocket (skyrocket) – used mainly to refer to sudden big increases in money related activities (prices, costs, sales etc.): “The value of the dollar has rocketed against the euro.” soar  – to increase quickly to a high level:. “ Temperatures soared into the 30’s.” spiral – used especially with costs that increase quickly and uncontrollably: “Costs of the project have spiralled out of control.”  


4. To increase by gradually adding more

accumulate / build up– to increase gradually in number or amount until there is a large quantity in one place: “The amount of rubbish on the beach has accumulated over the summer months.” pile up – often used with work or debt: “ The work I have to do has just piled up and I don’t think I can cope with it all.”




1. An increase in number or amount

growth – an increase in amount , quantity, population etc. : “There has been a significant growth in the  population of developing countries.” rise  –  used in the same way as the verb: “There was a disappointingly small rise in pass rates this year.” upturn/ recovery (verb -recover) – an increase after a period of time when there was no increase: “There has been an upturn in the amount of trade after a period of no growth.”

2. An increase in the amount of money

‘rise’ and ‘increase’ are the nouns usually used but in addition: hike – a sudden increase in something such as prices, wages or taxes: “Nurses are hoping to get a 10% pay hike.”  


3. A sudden large increase

explosion (verb – explode) – a sudden and very large increase: “There has been a population explosion this century.” leap  -( verb – leap)– used especially with business costs, prices, activities: “Borrowers have been warned to expect another leap in interest rates.” surge (verb-surge) – a sudden increase in, for example, demand, profit, interest: “There has been a surge of interest in Korean dramas.”





1.  To become less

decrease – become less, used especially in business and technical subjects: “The speed of the motor gradually decreases to zero.” go down / come down – to become less: I’m hoping prices will come down soon.”


2. To increase quickly or suddenly and by a large amount

cut – to reduce something by a lot, especially prices, time or money: “The new system cut waiting times by 30%.” fall/drop – become less, especially by a large amount; ‘drop’ also suggests a sudden decrease: “At night, the temperature drops to well below zero.” plummet / plunge – to drop very rapidly and by a large amount: “The stock marketed plummeted 30 points after the announcement of the new taxation policy.” take a nosedive / nosedive – to become lower ( and worse) very quickly, causing problems: “House prices have nose-dived in the last month.”


3. To decrease the number, amount, or size of something

halve – to reduce something by half: “ Profits have been halved because of the economic slowdown.” lower – especially used in business or technical subjects: “The boiling point was lowered by several degrees.” reduce – to make something less in amount or level. This is used when something, typically price or cost, is lowered due to intentional human action: “You can greatly reduce your heating bills with this new system.”  


The noun equivalents of the above verbs are as follows. As you can see, for most there is no change in form.



Note the special meaning of ‘decline’. Be careful; not to confuse it with the more widely used ‘decrease’. decline  – a gradual decrease in the number or amount of something good or important so that the situation becomes worse (The verb ‘decline’ is less used; it also has another different meaning of ‘to refuse’): “ We can expect a further decline in job vacancies.”   The next article will list some common adjectives and adverbs used for describing increases and decreases and also look at the role that different prepositions play.

If you are serious about taking your IELTS writing to the next level, sign up for your FREE 3 part IELTS writing video course that takes you through both task 1 and task 2. The video lessons are led by our highly experienced UK native IELTS teacher, Katherine. We also provide you with exercises to test your understanding in describing decreases and increases!

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